We reached over 1000 followers on the Queen's House Twitter account @TQHGreenwich over the weekend. As a thank you to all of you who follow and interact with us, and an enticement to the next 1000 who might, our Curators of Art pre- and post-1800, Katy Barrett and Melanie Vandenbrouck have picked their top 10 favourite things about the House.
1. The view of the Queen's House
Canaletto (Antonio Canal) painted his beautiful view of the Queen's House, visible beyond the colonnades of Greenwich Hospital in 1750-52. It shows how Christopher Wren designed the hospital to Queen Mary's stipulation that the view from the House to the river should remain unimpeded. If you go and look over the Thames from the Isle of Dogs today, you'll see that comparatively little has changed from Canaletto's image.
2. The Tulip Stairs
One of the remaining original, features of the House, these stairs were designed by Inigo Jones. Their name comes from the flower motif in the balustrade, although this is more likely to be a fleur-de-lis associated with the House's second queen Henrietta Maria. This is the first cantilever staircase in Britain, meaning the stairs have no central support, which allows a stunning view up the stairs from the ground floor.
3. The Great Hall
The House's remarkable hall is the centre of Inigo Jones's original design. Intended as a perfect cube, this room perfectly shows the combined emphasis on aesthetics and geometry which Jones took from Palladian architecture. He also designed the striking marble floor and the ornate wooden balustrade and ceiling. Both were originally gold and white, the colours of Queen Henrietta Maria.
4. The ceiling of the Queen's Presence Chamber
Another original feature of the House, the ornately painted ceiling of the Queen's Presence Chamber, gives us a sense of how Queen Henrietta Maria filled the House with art in the 1630s. The 'grotesque' style includes her and Charles I's initials in roundels, and 'Henrica Maria Regina' above the fireplace. The design was commissioned from either of two court artists, John de Critz or Matthew Gooderick, and includes an allegory of ‘Aurora dispersing the shades of Night’. The ceiling has recently been beautifully restored.
5. The 'Orangery'
This space at the back of the house has long been called an Orangery because of its size, shape and location. Although there is no evidence that oranges were ever grown here, Henrietta Maria is known to have cultivated them elsewhere. The space would have acted as the main entrance to the house, coming off the royal park where both the House’s first queens were keen huntswomen. Deer are still kept in the park to this day.
6. The van de Velde Studio
The complex history of the Queen's House has seen its rooms have many uses. One parlour off of the Orangery is thought to be the studio space given by Charles II to the van de Veldes. This father and son, Willem van de Velde the Elder and Younger, worked for the British court painting naval battles, reviews, and maritime scenes, after answering Charles's offer of work in the 1670s. Their paintings and drawings are now some of the most important works in the museum's collections.
7. The Loggia
Directly above the Orangery, the Loggia provides the central focus of the Queen's House from the park. The spectacular views from here have barely changed in the house's 400-year history. Lines of trees still lead up the hill to the Royal Observatory, designed by Christopher Wren in the 1670s. While the Observatory was being built, the first Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed used the roof of the Queen's House to observe the stars.
8. The Royal Hospital School
In the 19th century, the Queen's House became part of the Royal Hospital School, which trained naval cadets for a career at sea. Rooms in the house were converted to classrooms and living quarters for teachers. If you had looked out of the Great Hall windows towards the river during this time, you would have seen a succession of full-size training ships, used to teach the boys their duties.
9. The Roadway
Today colonnades join the Queen's House to the main buildings of the National Maritime Museum. They follow the line of the Woolwich-Deptford road, which originally ran directly under the house. Inigo Jones's design allowed the Court to pass over the road, using the house as a bridge from the royal gardens to the royal parks. During the 19th century, the roadway space was walled-in to create classrooms.
10. The view from the Queen's House
Thanks to Queen Mary III's orders in the 1690s, the Queen's House commands extraordinary views of the Old Royal Naval College and across the Thames to the Isle of Dogs. Today these are enhanced by the juxtaposition of Christopher Wren's architecture with the towers of Canary Wharf. Through sunset, mist and rain, views from the House continue to mesmerise as much as the views within it.